Students from Puerto Rico find refuge at FIU, begin classes this fall

FIU students from Puerto Rico: Mariela Serrano (left) and Sarah Colon (right).

Students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands whose homes and institutions were damaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria have found a new home at FIU, complete with an out-of-state tuition fee waiver.

Sarah Colon left her home in Puerto Rico days after Hurricane Maria battered the island leaving her community of Corozal and the campus she attends at the University of Puerto Rico completely devastated. She traveled to Miami looking for the opportunity to continue her junior year as a chemistry major.

“After the hurricane, I thought I would have to delay my education, but with the tuition waiver, I now have the opportunity to take classes this semester and continue in the spring,” said Colon, who is getting ready for classes that start on Monday, Oct. 16.

Colon is among approximately 200 Puerto Ricans who are enrolling as visiting students and will be able to pay the in-state tuition rate through the spring semester. The university has created a help line for students, 305-348-3481, and a website to help answer their questions and raise money to support existing FIU students impacted by hurricanes in the Caribbean, as well as those coming to FIU to continue their studies.

“During the most challenging and difficult times, FIU does not turn its back on those in need,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “We care and are committed to helping students like Sarah by offering the tuition waiver and adding to the courses that we offer during the mini-term starting in October.”

This fall, current FIU students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands whose families were impacted by the hurricanes that leveled the islands in September are also eligible for a refund of the out-of-state tuition fee, and in the spring, the university will waive the out-of-state portion of their tuition.

For many of these students, this comes at a time when their family’s financial situation is uncertain. FIU freshman Mariela Serrano was able to use the refund to help her mother who is still without work in Puerto Rico. Serrano also started working at the FIU call center, helping fellow students from the Caribbean seeking information on admission and enrollment.

“The tuition refund and my job at the call center changed everything for me. I’m meeting and helping students from Puerto Rico and I’m earning some money to cover my expenses,” Serrano said.